Trick and treat
Kimberly Macey remembers the first movie her mother, Kathy Bowen, took her to a theater to watch as a young child.
“It was the ‘The Exorcist,’” Macey said. “We were always going to scary movies.”
The movie remains one of Kathy’s favorites. But the fan of horror movies said taking her young daughter to the classic raised eyebrows.
“I remember them asking at the ticket booth if she was too young to watch it,” Kathy said. “I don’t know why, but I’ve always liked scary movies. I like the scary ones, not the blood-and-guts ones.
“We do have the gore in our haunted barn, though.”
The gore can be seen by invitation only, but Kathy’s fascination with Halloween and all things scary is now on display for all those driving between Tonganoxie and Basehor on U.S. Highway 24-40. The homestead of Kathy and her husband, Rick, is decorated for the season with a graveyard, gaggle of ghosts, barn-climbing spider, gargoyle-topped entry columns, witch and other seasonal decor.
“We get lots of honking from people on the highway — lots of stopping and taking pictures,” she said. “We even got a thank-you note left in the mailbox.”
The decorations seen from the highway are only part of the Bowens’ Halloween preparations. The couple, their family and friends are also completing a haunted house in a barn, which will be ready for this Saturday’s annual Bowen Bash for family and friends.
The bash started in 1995 as a hayrack ride and bonfire for the Bowens’ niece and her scouting unit and continued with the arrival of the couple’s grandchildren. Through the years, the annual event has expanded to include a haunted barn and Halloween dinner for about 80 invited guests.
“They liked getting scared when they were little,” Rick said of grandchildren Jacob Macey, 11, and Amber Macey, 13. “Then, they liked doing the scaring when they got older.”
The division of labor behind the bash has Rick, a retired machinist, fabricating most of the decoration and haunted barn special effects, which his wife thinks up with a “ghoul squad” in the near yearlong planning of the event.
“They start talking about ideas probably in April and really get into it hot and heavy in July,” Rick said.
Kathy said much of the inspiration comes from her friend Joe Allen. Together, they took a class on haunted houses in Kansas City, Mo., and recently visited Worlds of Fun’s Halloween Haunt for ideas.
“Joe, he likes Halloween, too,” she said. “Much of what you see here came from him.
“We got our heads together and came up with this. It started in the pasture and spooking people out there. Then we moved into the barn with the haunted house.
“It’s been fun.”
The ghoul squad likes to add something new every year. The first this year is the electric chair placed at the last corner of the haunted barn, between the butcher shop and the dining table set with body parts. After negotiating the barn’s twisted route of chills, visitors will climb aboard a hayrack for a ride by the graveyard, ghosts and haunted pond (Kathy, who has taken four paranormal tours, said she and Rick have seen unexplained lights on the pond since a motorist drove into it after suffering a fatal heart attack on the highway). They will then head to the bonfire for hot dogs, marshmallows and other treats.
“I don’t know everybody who comes through,” Rick said. “I try to meet them, but there is so many sometimes you wonder who they know.
“There’s lots and lots of food. If someone goes home hungry, it’s their fault.”